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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

2001 Horse Boarding Guide for the Upper Shenandoah Valley

Farm Business Management Update, April 2002

By Bill Whittle

The horse industry, particularly the pleasure horse segment, has grown dramatically in the past several years. Owners of pleasure horses often do not have the acreage needed to keep horses on their property; therefore, they look for boarding facilities. During spring 2001, the Farm Business Management staff surveyed horse-boarding facilities in Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren counties.

The first purpose of the survey was to create an information base to assist clientele in the decisions involved in developing a boarding enterprise. The second purpose of the survey was to develop a list of stables for horse owners who are looking for a boarding facility.

The survey was mailed to Extension agriculture mailing lists, placed in feed stores and tack shops, and provided to lenders. Response was minimal with only fifteen surveys returned. Even though the response was small, it is enough to establish an initial base of information. The information is presented as a percentage of the number of responses. In instances where the total is greater than 100%, a stable responded to the question at multiple levels.

The business of boarding horses is complicated because of the variety of arrangements made to board horses. This guide provides a general view of the horse boarding industry in the Shenandoah Valley by capturing the methods of boarding through the 56 questions asked in the survey.

  1. When asked about the level of service provided, 47% of stable owners felt they offered full service, and 53% felt they offered minimal service. Several facilities said they offered the choice of full or minimal service based on the fee.

  2. Table 1 shows the average rate and range of rates charged by the facilities responding to the survey.
    Table 1: Average rate and range of rates charged Rate Per Horse Per Month
    Type of Boarding Facility No. of Stables Average Number of Horses Range of Number of Horses Average Rate Per Horse Per Month Range Per Horse Per Month
    Pasture 5 14 2 - 30 $92 $75 - $160
    Pasture with Run-in 9 10 2 - 30 $111 $25 - $180
    Pasture with Occasional Stall 4 8 3 - 13 $256 $165 - $360
    Stall (Total Confinement) 4 8 2 - 14 $266 $125 - $540
    Stall with Individual Paddock 3 3 1 - 6 $278 $200 - $360
    Stall with multi-horse paddock 4 12 8 - 15 $188 $125 - $300

  3. 53% said they catered to both youth and adults, while 33% said they dealt with adults only. Facilities dealt with as few as one customer and as many as 10.

  4. 75% of the facilities responded that they did not cater to a specific style of rider. Table 2 outlines the types of riding styles represented by the responding stables:
    Table 2: Riding Styles Represented
    English 53%
    Western 33%
    Hunter 27%
    Dressage 27%

  5. Types of fencing material vary greatly. Table 3 describes the material used by the responding stables. Most farms had different types of fencing even in the confinement area. Board fence was the most popular for the confinement area while woven wire was the most popular for the entire farm.
    Table 3: Types of Fencing Material
      Confinement Area Entire Farm
    Board 73% 20%
    Woven Wire 67% 40%
    High tensile (smooth) 20% 13%
    Electric 13.3% 20%
    Barbed Wire 13.3% ------

  6. Stables have different methods of watering horses (Table 4).
    Table 4: Source of Water
    Pasture Bucket 7%
    Automatic Waterer 13%
    Trough 87%
    Spring/Creek/Pond 40%
    Stall Automatic Waterer 13%
    Bucket 80%

  7. Many stables offer amenities for their customers. 92% of the facilities arranged use of the amenity on a first come first serve basis. Table 5 lists the amenities and the frequency of availability at the stables.
    Table 5: Type of Amenity
    Riding Trails 74%*
    Outdoor Arena 67%
    Jumps 53%
    Outdoor Wash Rack 33%
    Indoor Wash Rack 20%
    Hot Walker 7%
    Indoor Arena 7%
    * 66% said the trails were on private land and 20% said they were on public land.

  8. Typical stall size was 12 ft X 12 ft, though size was reported as large as 12 X16 ft. Paddock size ranged from 1 1/2-2 1/2 acres and pastures ranged from 5-50 acres.

  9. Who performs the actual inspections and the frequency with which the horses are monitored (Table 6)?
    Table 6: Monitoring of the Horses
    Who checks? Frequency Checked / Day
    Facility Owner - 93% Once/Day - 29%
    Facility Manager- 20% Twice/Day - 50%
    Facility Employee -27% Four Times/Day- 29%

  10. Cleanliness and horse comfort is of great concern to the horse owner. Questions relating to stall management are summarized in Table 7.
    Table 7: Stall Management
    Who cleans Stall? Horse Owner - 18% Facility Management - 82%
    How often cleaned? Once/Day - 91% Twice/Day - 9%
    Are shavings provided in fee? Yes - 91% No - 9%

  11. Horse Health Care is a major issue when co-mingling horses. 78% of the stable managers said they have a quarantine area and 57% indicated that they quarantine all new arrivals. Required vaccinations/tests are summarized in Table 8.
    Table 8: Required Immunizations/Tests
    EIA-Negative Coggins Test 100%
    Tetnus 93%
    Rabies 80%
    Flu Rhino 73%
    Strangles 40%
    Potomac Horse Fever 33%
    Encephalitis 20%

  12. The information on De-worming, a regular and necessary chore for proper horse health, is summarized in Table 9:
    Table 9: De-Worming
    Service Provided? Yes - 80% No - 27%  
    Included in fee? Yes - 8% No - 92%  
    Who does De-worming? Owner - 54% Mgt. - 40% Vet - 7%
    Frequency? 3 Months - 41% 2 Months - 33% Monthly, 10 weeks, 2X/Year - 8% each

    No stable had a veterinarian on retainer and boarders are allowed to use any vet they choose. 64% of stable managers make arrangements for routine checkups while 36% leave that task to the horse owner. 79% of stable managers conduct shot clinics for their customers. 80% of stable managers do not carry mortality/liability insurance on their customer's horses, though 20% of stable managers carry some type of mortality insurance. Also, 93% of stable managers do not require the horse owner to carry mortality/liability insurance.

    Table 10: Farrier Services
      Yes No  
    Does the Stable have a Farrier on retainer? 33% 67%  
    Is a Holding Fee charged? 25% 75% Typical cost - $10.00
    Who makes farrier arrangements? Owner - 67% Mgt. - 47%  

  13. 87% of the stables included feed in their fee; however, 23% supplied only hay. Only 21% of the stable managers provided supplements. 79% of the stable managers fed twice per day and 21% fed once per day. Table 11 shows that respondents to the survey indicated that they fed the following types of hay:
    Table 11: Type of Hay Fed by Stable
    Orchardgrass 40%
    Mixed Hay 40%
    Timothy 20%
    Alfalfa 7%

    The questions asking how much feed was provided drew ambiguous responses indicating that this part of stable management is an imprecise science. The most frequent answer was "As much as they need" but there was no way to quantify how much the horse needed. 64% of stable management did indicate that if the horse required more than a normal ration of feed (however normal was determined) they charged extra.

  14. None of the responding facilities boarded outside stallions, but 24% said they had stallions on the premises. 54% of the operations said that geldings were separated from mares while 46% said they did not separate.

    Table 12: Other Services Yes No Additional Fee
    Stable Exercises Horses for Owner? 14% 86% Yes
    Training for Horses? 33% 67%  
    Lessons for Riders? 29% 71%  
    Provide Winter Blanketing? 47% 60%  
    Does the stable provide Horse related events? 47% 53%  
    Provide trailering to an event? 33% 80%  
    Is there a trailering fee? 89% 11%  

  15. 67% of the stable managers said they did not have a specified closing time, but for those with specific closing times, times ranged from 6:00 PM till dark.

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